Saturday, February 7, 2015

Saturday Spotting - Baltimore's Rare Copper Find

Published in June of 1904 by Baltimore American out of Baltimore, Maryland.
Copper Plates of 1702 in the Maryland Historical Society and Pratt Library.
As the result of investigation made by Col. George W. F. Vernon the presence in this city of two very rare old copper plate engravings has been brought to light. One is in the rooms of Maryland Historical Society, where it has laid with little or no attention for an indefinite period; the other, which is similar, is in the reading room of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
     The engravings are of exceedingly fine lines and is a copy of a painting in the Royal Academy, London, and was designed, engraved and published by James Barry, R. A., professor of painting to the Royal Academy, February 28, 1792. It is probably one of a series which the artist offered to paint gratuitously, allegorically illustrating the culture and progress of human knowledge. This offer was made to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. The painting was made to give credit to Cecilus Calvert as establisher of civil and religious liberty in America, and is peculiarly interesting to both historians and artists.
Description of the Antiques
     The engravings are on a large plat 2 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 6 inches, and represent Lycurgus, King Alfred, William Penn and other lawgivers, civilians and clergy, the main feature of which exhibits as the central and most conspicuous figure Lycurgus in his Greek attire with a scroll in his hands, reading the name, which is apparently being unrolled by Cecilus Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, held up for the scrutiny of Lycurgus on which is inscribed “Religious and Civil Liberty Established in Maryland, 1649.”

The bottom of the engraving reads as follows:
In the Elysium one of the series of pictures on human culture in the Greek room of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, etc., at the Adelphia, a mistake was committed, owing to the illusion, that has been so generally spread of considering William Penn as the first colonizer who established equal laws of religious and civil liberty. This design is, therefore, added to the series in order to rectify the mistake in the group of legislators, by making Lycurgus looking at these exemplary laws as placed in the hands of Ceceilus Calvert. Baron of Baltimore, who was the original establisher of them in his colony of Maryland many years before William Penn and his colony arrived in America a copy his worthy example.
Mystery of Their Origin
     The manner in which the presence of the engraving was discovered is interesting. It is supposed that the only other copy is in the possession of Dr. M. H. Cryer, of the University of Pennsylvania. Recently Colonel Vernon met Dr. Cryer, and the latter interested him with the description of the copperplate. Upon his return to Baltimore Colonel Vernon called the attention of Maryland Historical Society to the existence of such a plate, when the copy was released from the obscurity in which it has been and given prominent place in the library of the Maryland Historical Society. It was impossible to find out how long the engraving has been in the possession of the society.
     The copy which is in the possession of the Enoch Pratt Library has been in the reading-room for some time, and from whence it came is also shrouded in mystery.
     Barry, the artist, was born in Cork in 1741. In 1777 he was made a royal academician, and 1782 he was elected professor of painting. Owing, however, to a certain turbulence of temper he quarreled with the president of the academy and in 1792 his expulsion took place. He died in 1806.